Yakity Yak

by Rachel Long
assistant opinions editor

Many of us are familiar with the social media app Yik Yak, which works like an anonymous and localized version of Twitter where people all over the country can post whatever they want to, and it will only be visible on their college campus. This anonymity is the reason Yik Yak is so appealing. You can say anything you want, and no one will be the wiser. Mostly (at least here at Millsaps) the posts seem confined to offensive comments, complaints about dining services or classes, and the occasional sexual post that borders on being pornographic in nature. However, the anonymity that makes Yik Yak so alluring is causing problems in other schools and cities.

The app was originally designed for college students and is blocked from most high school and middle school campuses, but that doesn’t stop teens from using it. Two high school students from California and one from Alabama (and numerous others across the country) are currently being charged with making terroristic and shooting threats on Yik Yak. Often the teens don’t think the post will be taken seriously and assume that the posts are untraceable. The creators of the app are calling these problems “growing pains” and are cooperating with police to ensure that Yik Yak is banned from all high school and middle school campuses.

Abuse of this app is not limited to middle schools and high schools though. If you browse through the Yik Yak stream for Millsaps, you’ll find some pretty offensive posts. Students are attacked because of their class, character, race, sexual orientation, and appearance, all because the person posting thinks no bad can come of it because it’s anonymous. It’s like a hyped-up version of cyber-bullying designed just for college students. Maybe it doesn’t seem as bad as making a fake shooting threat, but tearing someone down over social media is damaging to them in the long run. I have no problem with Yik Yak itself—I have complained about classes on it far too often—but I personally find it disconcerting to think that there are so many people on campus who enjoy hiding behind a phone screen and taunting people.

Beyond the obvious problem of using an app to make bomb threats, it is also important to note that this means Yik Yak is not as anonymous as some may think. Actually, it’s surprisingly simple for police to find out exactly where a Yak came from.

When you use Yik Yak, you have to turn on your phone’s location services, which means everything you post can be traced.

Interesting, right?

So, when the frightened screams of everyone who has ever made a hateful or threatening remark on Yik Yak dies away, we can all take the time to arm ourselves with this new knowledge and think before we post.